Manager Paul Warne is backing Semi Ajayi to put his derby gaffe behind him during high-flying Rotherham United’s promotion run-in.
The Millers are unbeaten in 14 League One matches and came from behind in time added on in their most recent outing to beat South Yorkshire rivals Doncaster Rovers.
A mistake by Ajayi, who had been in peerless form during the Rotherham’s climb to fourth in the table, allowed Rovers to take a first-half lead at sold-out AESSEAL New York Stadium.
But Warne has no worries about the 24-year-old centre-half as his side prepare to return to action, at home to Rochdale on Saturday, after their clash at Gillingham last weekend was snowed off.
“The error is a bit of a kick for Semi to sharpen up,” said the boss. “Hopefully he will learn from that.”
Ajayi dallied in possession against Doncaster, allowing John Marquis and Alec Kiwomya to combine to take the ball off him before Marquis scored with a quality 18-yard shot.
Such indecision was a reason why the central defender lost his place early in the campaign. However, he has cut the costly mistakes out of his game since teaming up with Richard Wood at the heart of the defence at the beginning of the Millers’ three-month sequence without a loss.
“I didn’t say anything to Semi at half-time,” Warne said. “He’s not an idiot. He realises it was his fault. He did well to tidy up, but then he got a bit nonchalant. If you make an error that’s punished but go on to win, the error is not forgiven but it is more palatable.
“Semi and Woody have been brilliant for me.”
Rotherham, who have won their last seven matches on the trot, have 12 games left to try to catch top three Blackburn Rovers, Shrewsbury Town and Wigan Athletic. That is unlikely, but Warne’s men are 11 points clear of seventh-placed Charlton Athletic and look good to finish in the play-off spots.
Meanwhile, centre-half Michael Ihiekwe is available again after failing to make the squad against Doncaster because of a back issue.
The summer signing, who had filled in at left-back while Joe Mattock was injured, returned to full training last week.
The Millers reserves play Bradford City at Roundwood tomorrow, kick-off 1pm.